California’s lemon law statute, the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, protects used cars in several different ways. First, all used automobiles that are purchased or leased from a California car dealership during the original manufacturer’s warranty period qualify for protection under the new car lemon law. So if you purchased a used car, truck, or SUV in the Golden State before it was either 3 years old or had 36,000 miles on the odometer (or if it otherwise is still covered under the original manufacturer’s warranty), then check this site’s California new car lemon law page to see if you are entitled to a lemon law buyback.
Unlike some other states, in California used cars qualify for protection under the used car lemon law only if they are sold with a warranty. As stated above, if they are covered by the manufacturer’s warranty (which is typically 3 years/36,000 miles, but can be more for some manufacturers), then they may still qualify for coverage under the new car lemon law. If no manufacturer’s warranty came with the vehicle, then the dealer must have provided a warranty in order for the used car lemon law to apply.
Dealers’ warranties are typically limited to periods between 30 days to 3 months, but may be longer depending on the dealership. You can tell whether or not you received a dealer warranty by looking at the document called the Buyer’s Guide. Federal law mandates that Buyer’s Guides must be prominently displayed on used automobiles (usually in one of the windows) while they are being offered for sale. The Buyer’s Guide has two boxes on it, one labeled “Warranty” and the other “As Is.” If the warranty box is checked, then your vehicle came with a dealer warranty. Click here to see a sample Buyer’s Guide.
Keep reading this page to see how used car warranties protect you and to learn about the remedies you have if your used car turns out to be a lemon.
Many consumers purchase so-called “extended warranties” with their used cars. Unfortunately however, for the purposes of the California lemon law these are not warranties at all, but “service contracts.” The California lemon law was designed to ensure that car dealerships and manufacturers honor the warranties that they offer on their goods. But “extended warranties” are not the dealer’s promise that the vehicle is in good condition; rather, they are a third party’s promise to repair the vehicle if it breaks down. So unfortunately, if your vehicle only came with an “extended warranty,” then you probably do not qualify for coverage under California’s used car lemon law.
The only known exception to this rule is service contracts that require you to take your used car back to the selling dealer so that it can perform all of the repairs. If your “extended warranty” requires that the selling dealer fix your vehicle whenever there is a problem, then you should to talk to an expert lemon law attorney to find out whether it qualifies as a warranty under California’s used car lemon law.
If the dealer provided a warranty with your used car, then you are protected in two significant ways. First, during the term of the warranty you are protected in much the same way as the new car lemon law for the parts and components covered by the warranty. Dealer warranties usually cover only certain parts and components, but if one of those components fails causing a substantial defect then the dealer must fix it within a reasonable number of attempts or offer you a lemon law buyback if it is unable to do so.
Second, for all used cars sold with a dealer warranty of any kind, California’s lemon law statute imposes an “implied warranty of merchantability.” The implied warranty of merchantability lasts for a minimum of 30 days. If the dealer’s warranty is longer than 30 days, then the implied warranty of merchantability lasts for same period of time as the dealer’s warranty.
So what good is the implied warranty of merchantability? The main benefit of the implied warranty of merchantability is that it is not limited to the specific parts and components covered by the dealer’s warranty. It covers the entire vehicle. That being said, it is a very basic warranty. It only requires that your used car provide you with reliable, safe transportation during the warranty period. It won’t cover a malfunctioning radio or sound system because that type of defect does not prevent your use of the vehicle. But if your vehicle’s door locks stop working (or if anything else goes wrong preventing your safe, reliable use of the vehicle) the implied warranty of merchantability gives you a right to obtain free repairs or a refund during the warranty period regardless of whether or not the locks are covered by the dealer’s warranty.
Under the implied warranty of merchantability, you can also avoid paying deductible and co-payments that might otherwise be required under the dealer’s warranty. For example, some dealers offer 30 day warranties on used car engines, but the warranties require that you pay 50% (or some other portion) of the parts and/or labor. But if your engine completely fails (or the implied warranty of merchantability is implicated in some other way), then the implied warranty of merchantability can force the dealer to provide repairs for free without any charge to you.
If you purchased a used car with a dealer warranty that turns out to be a lemon, you should call a qualified lemon law attorney to discuss your case, regardless of whether or not the defect is specifically covered by the dealer’s warranty. In spite of what the dealer is telling you, you may be entitled to free repairs or a full refund.
The Vachon Law Firm offers free consultations in new and used car lemon law cases. We also specialize in car dealer fraud, financing violations, and repossession cases. Call us today at 855-4-LEMON-LAW (855-453-6665) or send us an email to learn more about your legal rights and to find out if we can help.
You may be entitled to a full refund or monetary compensation!